Manly is the club most fearful of having players poached by new Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett and Dylan Walker sits atop a potential hit-list.
That’s according to Nine NRL reporter Danny Weidler, with Penrith assistant Barrett on the verge of confirming a three-year contract to replace Dean Pay at Canterbury.
Panthers playmaking sensation Matt Burton is of interest to the Bulldogs, Weidler said, though Barrett has been warned against poaching Penrith players.
Burton is highly-rated and contracted until the end of next season but his career path is currently blocked by fellow five-eighth Jarome Luai.
Walker is just one player close to Barrett after his 2016-18 tenure as Manly head coach. Barrett and Walker also share the same agent, Wayne Beavis.
“When Barrett gets the [Bulldogs] job, he’s supposed to have his hands off the Panthers,” Weidler said on 100% Footy.
“But young Burton, Matt Burton, is the player that’s already been linked to the [Bulldogs] club. He’d be a fantastic signing, obviously at the right price.
“But Manly are privately concerned that Barrett may raid some of the former Manly players because he had a very good relationship with a lot of the Manly players, including the ‘Turbo’ [Trbojevic] brothers, Daly Cherry-Evans.
“But Dylan Walker’s a player that Manly are privately worried could get poached. He’s obviously had some injury issues and some other issues but on the field, he can be a tremendous player.
“He has the same manager as Trent Barrett, so that’s obviously a concern.
“There’s also been a bit of talk around that John Cartwright, the assistant coach, could get poached but I’ve had that denied to me a couple of times [on Monday].
“Obviously Barrett is starting the process, he’s probably sounding some players out right now to come over with him.”
Walker, who has played centre and five-eighth at Manly, is contracted until the end of next season. The 25-year-old, who has represented NSW and Australia, signed a new two-season deal late last year.
Barrett reportedly intends to stay at Penrith until the end of this season and has been given a strict no-poaching edict by the club.
He is in his second stint as a Panthers assistant, having been sent on gardening leave in 2015 amid a similar scenario before he joined Manly. The former Test playmaker hopes to leave with a premiership, working under Penrith head coach Ivan Cleary.
One notable player who has followed Barrett between clubs is Apisai Koroisau. The hooker was released by Penrith to join Barrett at Manly in 2016, then reunited with Barrett at the Panthers this season.
Intriguingly, Koroisau was tipped to join the Bulldogs this season before Barrett swayed him to sign with Penrith. Canterbury is in dire need of a top hooker, though Korisau is contracted with the Panthers until the end of 2022.